New regional body to promote sustainability
UN and Clean Energy Business Council set up new forum.
The United Nations Development Programme and an Abu Dhabi-based non-governmental organisation, the Clean Energy Business Council (CEBC), have established a new forum for sustainable development and green economy in the Arab region.
With an agreement signed at Dubai's Wetex, in April, it's the latest in a growing list of private, regional efforts at the soft-politics of environmental influence.
"It's a partnership on three separate levels," explained Dr Nasser Saidi, chairman of the CEBC.
These levels start with the raising awareness. Second will be the use of analytical tools and the development of policy frameworks, where the UNDP's expertise will be blended with the CEBC's local knowledge. Finally, it will come to trial projects.
"The region faces multiple challenges in terms of water and energy efficiency," said Saidi. "There's a lot on the agenda. What we are hoping to do is engage with UNDP and look at working together over the next few years.
"Eventually we want to have pilot projects to demonstrate the benefits of clean energy technology."
Affiliated to UNDPs Arab Climate Resilience Initiative (ACRI), the forum will also act as a platform 'to mobilize the role of private sector'.
The intention is that CEBC member companies - which include the likes of GE, First Solar and ACWA Power - will pitch in expertise to pilot programmes, showcasing the benefits of the ideas, plus how they can deliver them.
This kind of private sector involvement is seen as a pivotal component in the future success of driving clean technology into greater use and gaining widespread governmental support for the introduction of policy frameworks.
"Key to addressing these challenges will be to engage the catalytic role of the private sector in supporting innovation and scaling up finance for sustainable development," said Dr. Kishan Khoday, UNDP Practice Leader for Environment & Energy in the Arab Region, in a statement. "The United Nations Development Programme supports initiatives across the Arab region that bring together Government, private sector and civil society for goals of sustainable development."
The two groups believe the Arab region provides both potential and opportunities for the private sector to get involved with technical innovation and project finance, aimed at sustainable development goals. They believe that the evidence for this can be found in the rise of regional commercial interest in low-carbon approaches, sustainable energy and water conservation.
Dubai, for example, is dotted with small-scale projects trying new technology from the private sector. From trucks running on recycled vegetable oil, to landfill degassing being used to generate power, there are already ideas being put into action by companies pushing into new areas.
"The private sector needs both to prepare for this new reality but also to try and lead by example by mitigating carbon emissions through sustainable practices," said Saidi.
"Take the example of Masdar. It has different projects in Africa, which are aiming to introduce clean energy technologies to a number of countries. It's a prime example of what could be done. These can be simple things, such as being able to access clean water, without using energy: finding alternatives to diesel motors.
"We’re hoping we can marshal the expertise of the UNDP and bring that experience to bear in our region."
The CEBC has engaged with both international organisations and governments in the region, in order to drive its own brand recognition. It has also endeavoured to build relationships with government bodies, such as the Dubai Supreme Energy Council, and participated in a series of conference and forum events that touch on sustainability.
"We're reaching out through public media symbolically," said Saidi. "This is why the UNDP chose to partner with us. They view this as being an important way of reaching the public sector and business."
It is impossible to avoid the place of nuclear power in any discussion of clean energy and Saidi cautiously acknowledges its place as part of the energy mix.
"It depends how you define clean and how you look at [the time] horizon. The latest IPCC report suggests renewable plus nuclear is part of the solution, as it is fossil fuels leading to climate change and an increase in temperatures.
"Nuclear reduces dependence on fossil fuels."
However, Saidi is quick to point out the speed of advance in the renewables sector. Increasing technology investment and a downward trend in pricing make the proposition, especially for solar energy, more efficient.
"Solar can now compete with existing technology, which was not the case even as close as four years ago," he said. "However, you need to distinguish between stock and flow. Flow is new investment into power plant and resources management; stock is existing power plants, which is old technology."
The CEBC, along with its new partner, will keep pushing the pros of clean energy and water technology. Private sector backing will help, but government support will be the essential ingredient to success.